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An Essay on Fiscal Federalism


  • Wallace E. Oates


This paper is a selective survey of fiscal federalism. It begins with a brief review and some reflections on the traditional theory of fiscal federalism: the assignment of functions to levels of government, the welfare gains from fiscal decentralization, and the use of fiscal instruments. It then explores a series of important topics that are the subject of current research: laboratory federalism, interjurisdictional competition and environmental federalism, the political economy of fiscal federalism, market-preserving federalism, and fiscal decentralization in the developing and transitional economies.

Suggested Citation

  • Wallace E. Oates, 1999. "An Essay on Fiscal Federalism," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(3), pages 1120-1149, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:37:y:1999:i:3:p:1120-1149 Note: DOI: 10.1257/jel.37.3.1120

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martin C. McGuire & Mancur Olson Jr., 1996. "The Economics of Autocracy and Majority Rule: The Invisible Hand and the Use of Force," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 72-96, March.
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    3. Yingyi Qian & Barry R. Weingast, 1997. "Federalism as a Commitment to Reserving Market Incentives," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 83-92, Fall.
    4. Brown, Charles C. & Oates, Wallace E., 1987. "Assistance to the poor in a federal system," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 307-330, April.
    5. Feldstein, Martin S, 1975. "Wealth Neutrality and Local Choice in Public Education," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(1), pages 75-89, March.
    6. Fischel, William A, 1992. "Property Taxation and the Tiebout Model: Evidence for the Benefit View from Zoning and Voting," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 171-177, March.
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    8. Roger H. Gordon, 1983. "An Optimal Taxation Approach to Fiscal Federalism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(4), pages 567-586.
    9. Case, Anne C. & Rosen, Harvey S. & Hines, James Jr., 1993. "Budget spillovers and fiscal policy interdependence : Evidence from the states," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 285-307, October.
    10. Robin W. Boadway & Frank R. Flatters, 1982. "Efficiency and Equalization Payments in a Federal System of Government: A Synthesis and Extension of Recent Results," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 15(4), pages 613-633, November.
    11. Zhang, Tao & Zou, Heng-fu, 1998. "Fiscal decentralization, public spending, and economic growth in China," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 221-240, February.
    12. Fisher, Ronald C., 1982. "Income and grant effects on local expenditure: The flypaper effect and other difficulties," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 324-345, November.
    13. Rebecca M. Blank, 1997. "Policy Watch: The 1996 Welfare Reform," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(1), pages 169-177, Winter.
    14. Weingast, Barry R, 1995. "The Economic Role of Political Institutions: Market-Preserving Federalism and Economic Development," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 1-31, April.
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    JEL classification:

    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism


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